Learning Technology at Salesian College

As the Digital Learning Leader of the College a key focus this year has been investigating how the landscape of learning and teaching is continuing to evolve with the world of technology. Our existing servers which support a lot of our administration and teaching applications such as Email, Daymap, Accelerus, Domain Authentication Services, TimeTabler, File Servers and Print Servers are in need of being upgraded. The College Executive have signed off on a proposal submitted to them and $140,000 has been granted to be spent on upgrading servers. This is a fantastic investment that will contribute to providing a stable and high performing platform for which we can push future technology projects to benefit learning and teaching.

One key technology project focused on benefitting learning and teaching involves investigating the types of learning devices that we would like to make available to our students in the near future. From 2012-2015 Salesian College committed to a 1:1 iPad program starting at Year 9 in order to move towards a more contemporary student-centred teaching and learning experience enhanced by technology. The iPad devices have played a major role in providing flexibility in learning while connecting classrooms to the internet, emails, eBooks and applications all with the convenience of being lightweight and portable. As we strive to stay at the forefront of learning and teaching a vital aspect of this involves having a clear understanding of which devices will best suit the learning needs of our students into the future.

Some guiding questions which are helping to inform our research and decision making include:

  • What are the learning needs of each of our Year 7-8, Year 9 and Year 10-12 campuses?
  • Could learning and teaching be enhanced with 1:1 devices throughout the College?
  • What learning and teaching opportunities exist for students with devices other than iPads?

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is one possibility that has been discussed with Executive throughout the year. Three surveys will be sent out shortly targeted at gaining information from students, parents and staff on their use of mobile devices and their interest in a BYOD program. The specifics of such a program running at Salesian College are yet to be finalised however we are committed to ensuring affordability, flexibility and equality for students and their families.

The four main devices which can be considered for a BYOD program are:

  • Laptops (mobile devices with a permanent keyboard such as a MacBook Pro/Air)
  • Hybrid Devices (touch screen tablets with a detachable keyboard such as a Surface Pro)
  • Tablets (large touch screen devices such as an iPad)
  • Mobile Phones (smart phones with Wi-Fi internet connection and access to applications)

Some key questions around BYOD programs include:

  • How many students already own and use laptops or hybrid devices but are restricted to using them at home because the College does not currently support them at school?
  • Could a BYOD program be delivered in a way so that families have some choice in the types of laptops or hybrid devices their child/children can bring to school?
  • Would a BYOD program be focused exclusively on laptops and hybrid devices? What role would tablets and mobile phones play?
  • Could a BYOD program be created and implemented that provides some choice to families whilst also ensuring equality for students with how their device performs in the classroom?

We are looking at getting some small BYOD trials up and running with specific classes in term 3 with the use of software from Citrix. For any students participating in the trial who already own an iPad they will still be required to have their iPad with them at school and they will have the option of bringing a second device such as a laptop or hybrid device but they certainly won’t have to purchase any devices in 2015. For students who do bring a laptop or hybrid device to school it will enable them to have greater control of their learning by empowering them to take ownership of how they take notes, brainstorm, collaborate, revise, complete classwork, and submit assessment tasks. The trial will help us identify the pros and cons of the Citrix software and how realistic it is to have BYOD up and running in specific campuses or across the whole College in 2016.

While it is extremely exciting to plan for projects such as the potential for BYOD it is also imperative that decisions are made off the back of thorough research, feedback, evidence and ongoing discussions. The College will continue to investigate BYOD and how it can best be established for our unique Salesian learning community before any final decisions are made. As the project continues to evolve the College will ensure that students, parents and staff are kept informed.

Clancy Merrett

Digital Learning Leader